'Are they scared of scrutiny?': Government berated in Commons for Budget briefings

Furious MPs have criticised ministers for revealing Budget spending pledges to journalists before officially announcing policies in the Commons.

Speaker Lindsay Hoyle lead the attack, telling Treasury minister Simon Clarke that the government is treating Parliament in a "discourteous manner" by allowing news outlets to see Budget plans before MPs.

"This House will not be taken for granted, it's not right for everybody to briefed, it's not more important to go on the news in the morning, it's more important to come here."

Traditionally ministers remain tight-lipped about Budget announcements until the day they are revealed, at which point MPs in the Commons are given the chance to quiz the chancellor about his commitments.

But this year there has been a flurry of press releases sent out to journalists, with plans being revealed in newspapers well before MPs have the chance to scrutinise them.

More than £30 billion of investment has already revealed ahead of Wednesday's fiscal statement.

Labour MP Dame Angela Eagle said "this is serious", adding that ministers are "treating parliamentary democracy with utter contempt".

She added: "The minister should be completely ashamed of himself, he should have come to this House and apologised, his boss should have come to this House and apologised."

Angela Eagle accuses the government of 'utter contempt':

Mr Clarke defended the release of Budget announcements to the media, saying both he and Chancellor Rishi Sunak are "acutely aware" of the importance of the House of Commons.

"We are all committed as a Treasury team and indeed as a government to making sure that this House is fully respected," he said, claiming the government was abiding by the ministerial code because it had not talked about tax measures or adjustments.

Veteran Tory Desmond Swayne also stuck the boot in, asking if the government had briefed journalists but not Parliament because it was "frightened" of scrutiny.

He said: "There are two sides to this coin, the first is the government broadcasting without first letting us know. The other is the information it is trying to keep from us.

"Why was the leaked information on the cost - the substantial cost - of winter Plan B marked not for publication? What is the government trying to hide? Why is it frightened of our scrutiny?"

Mr Clarke responded, saying he would not comment on leaks, to which the Commons erupted with laughter.

On Monday, Speaker Hoyle suggested ministers should resign for briefing out details of the Budget in advance.

He said: "At one time ministers did the right thing if they briefed before a budget, they walked - yes, absolutely, they resigned."